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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 43, January - February 2000

Renewed Interest in Nuclear Issues
by Nicola Butler

The 1999-2000 session of the British Parliament has seen the issues of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missile defence (BMD), export controls, and safety at the beleaguered British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant rising to the top of the political agenda. In a rare debate on WMD, Members of Parliament (MPs) called on the Government to take a lead in the non-proliferation field, and for the sloganising of the past to make way for new thinking, and cross party discussion and debate.

For the first time an All-Party Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation has been established at Westminster. The group, which includes MPs from all the main political parties, held a successful inaugural meeting on January 19. Malcolm Savidge MP (Labour) was elected convener of the group, along with Sir Richard Body MP (Conservative), Rt. Hon. Menzies Campbell QC MP (Liberal Democrat), and Austin Mitchell MP (Labour) as vice-conveners, and Mike Gapes MP (Labour) as secretary. The Acronym Institute is facilitating the group on behalf of the Centre for Defence Studies (CDS), International Security Information Service (ISIS) and the Verification, Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC). Malcolm Savidge explains the thinking behind the group in this update on page 32.

As part of the Government's legislative programme for the new session, a Bill has been submitted to parliament that should enable Britain to ratify the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Additional Protocol, by the time of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference in April. The Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which was prepared by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has already completed its passage through the House of Lords, and will shortly be debated in the House of Commons. Tony Colman MP (Labour), sponsor of a Private Member's Bill to ratify the Additional Protocol in the 1998-1999 session, explains the importance of the legislation.

With both Secretary of State for Defence, Geoffrey Hoon MP and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Robin Cook MP discussing BMD issues with their US counterparts in Washington during the last month, the role that military bases in Britain might play in US plans has featured prominently in parliamentary questions. The Defence Select Committee has already questioned Hoon on BMD during its public hearings on the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) annual Defence White Paper, and it is likely that the new Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into British policy on the proliferation of WMD will also address US national missile defence (NMD) plans.

The visit of Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Kamal Kharrazi to London to sign a joint declaration on "mutual co-operation" on non-proliferation and disarmament with Cook, also sparked a number of questions on export controls and Iran's record as a potential WMD and ballistic missile proliferator. Export controls were also the subject of an inquiry by four Select Committees (Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Trade and Industry), which condemned the Government's failure to implement recommendations on export controls arising four years ago from the Scott Report on the "Arms to Iraq" scandal.1

Against a background of increasing challenges to Britain's Trident nuclear weapons through the courts, MPs have being pursuing questions concerning the legality of the Trident system. With the Government set to publish guidelines to armed services personnel asserting that "there is no specific rule of international law, express or implied, which prohibits the use of nuclear weapons", parliamentarians asked what legal advice the Government had sought in reaching this conclusion.

The Queen's Speech

The new parliamentary session opened on November 17, 1999, with the annual Queen's Speech, setting out the Government's legislative programme for the year ahead. As in previous years, the speech reaffirmed Britain's commitment to NATO as the "foundation of Britain's defence and security". The Government pledged also to "work to improve the effectiveness of the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy" and to "seek to modernise the United Nations… to make the Security Council more effective and more representative".2

In the Foreign and Defence Policy debates that followed the Queen's speech, neither Hoon nor Cook addressed arms control or disarmament. Although then Opposition spokesperson, John Maples MP (Conservative), chided Cook for his past membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Conservatives also had little to say on the subject of nuclear policy.

The most substantive contribution came from Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Rt. Hon. Menzies Campbell QC MP. Referring to Article VI of the NPT, Campbell proposed that Britain should "convene a conference of the five permanent members of the Security Council to prepare the way for a new round of strategic arms reduction talks, covering the weapons of all existing nuclear weapons states, including our own". He urged the Government to work also for an "annual declaration of nuclear weapons stocks held by all de facto nuclear weapons states under a United Nations nuclear weapons register" and to "embark on the negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention to match those for chemical and biological weapons".3

In contrast with the Commons, during the Lords' debate both Government ministers addressed nuclear policy. Minister of State for Defence Procurement Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean focussed on the "grave risks" posed by Saddam Hussein's attempts to develop biological and chemical weapons. Symons highlighted Britain's "intensive" efforts to "reach agreement in the Security Council on a new, comprehensive way forward on Iraq". She concluded (somewhat ironically given the subsequent abstentions of France, Russia and China on the recent UN Iraq resolution)A that "we can take satisfaction that Britain has played a major role in looking to restore unity on Iraq in the Security Council".

Responding to questions from Lord Jenkins of Putney on the lack of "effective discussion" in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Baroness Scotland of Asthal highlighted Britain's record on reducing its nuclear capability and in setting "the international standard in transparency". Saying that she hoped that Lord Jenkins would be "reassured", Baroness Scotland did little more than reaffirm existing Government policy that the "internationally agreed way forward on nuclear disarmament and the priorities are further progress in the START process, the entry into force of the test ban treaty and the negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty".4

Debating Weapons of Mass Destruction

Following the success of his Early Day Motion on Senate Rejection of the CTBT (EDM 929), which achieved overwhelming cross party support from 359 MPs in the last parliamentary session, Malcolm Savidge MP obtained an Adjournment Debate on Weapons of Mass Destruction on January 18 in the Common's new debating chamber, Westminster Hall. The debate was welcomed by speakers from all the main political parties, who also commended Savidge's efforts in establishing the new All-Party Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation.

Opening the debate, Savidge warned that the probability of a disaster involving WMD occurring was "far too high" and that "complacency at the end of the Cold War resulted in our failing to take advantage of many opportunities greatly to increase our safety". Echoing the former Conservative Secretary of State for Defence, Malcolm Rifkind's words that nuclear weapons "cannot be disinvented", he said that treaty negotiations should be central to tackling the problems posed by WMD, but that they were in a "parlous state". He applauded the work of the Government in attempting to persuade India and Pakistan to engage in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to reduce nuclear dangers in the region, but called for Britain to "lead by example". Welcoming Menzies Campbell's contribution to the debate on the Queen's Speech, Savidge emphasised that it was time to "leave behind old slogans, old positions and old arguments" and look at "new thinking". There was a place for both "unilateral initiatives" and "bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral negotiations". Above all there was a need to "discuss, debate, publicise and make progress on these issues".

Following Savidge, former Labour Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tony Lloyd MP made a welcome return to the area of non-proliferation. Highlighting the importance of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) verification Protocol, Lloyd said that Britain and the other nuclear-weapon States (NWS) had a "particular responsibility as regards biological and chemical weapons". The onus was on the NWS to look at how to break the current deadlock in arms control. Although there were "no overnight solutions", Britain had a "pivotal role to play". He urged the Government to examine the future of British nuclear weapons "because technological change inevitably brings the possibility of technological obsolescence". Knowing its own future plans, would allow the UK to strike a position on the world stage "that gives us influence over other nuclear weapon states". For example, Britain's progress on transparency enhanced its "ability to tell countries such as France and even China that it is important to seize the opportunity to de-escalate".

Speaking on behalf of the Labour Parliamentary CND Caucus, Ann Cryer MP (Labour) focussed mainly on efforts by US Space Command to achieve military domination of space. She reiterated UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's call for the CD to "codify principles which can ensure that outer space remains weapons-free". Cryer paid tribute to the role of CND and the international peace movement in alerting the public to the dangers of nuclear weapons.

In a speech that covered the non-proliferation regimes for all three types of WMD, Defence Select Committee member, Harry Cohen MP (Labour) raised concerns that the US was pursuing policies that "would fundamentally weaken the draft [BWC] protocol by reducing the level of verification". He called for a Foreign Office Minister to attend the BWC Ad Hoc Working Group to make it "clear that we want an agreement on stronger verification procedures to be reached this year". Referring to the US Senate's rejection of the CTBT and US plans for NMD, he suggested that Britain needed "a greater separation from the United States on nuclear policy".

As the only participant in the debate to oppose arms control completely, Conservative backbencher Julian Lewis MP argued that a nuclear-free world would "make the world safe again for conventional warfare". Taking a similar approach to the last Conservative government during the 1995 NPT Review Conference, Lewis argued that Article VI "brackets a nuclear-free world with a requirement for general and complete disarmament: one is not expected to happen before the other". His view was that "nuclear deterrence kept the peace during the Cold War and has a role in international security in future".

Congratulating Malcolm Savidge for obtaining the Adjournment Debate on WMD, David Chaytor MP (Labour), took the opportunity to call for a Government debate in the next few weeks on the NPT itself. Arguing that the "majority of people do not accept nuclear deterrents as a rational form of defence", Chaytor advocated the work of the New Agenda Coalition and its call to the nuclear weapon states urgently "to intensify their actions to implement Article VI… which commits them to seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons". Commending the UK's leading role in pursuing agreements on climate change in Kyoto, for the abolition of land mines, and for the elimination of debt for the world's poorest countries, Chaytor appealed to the Government now "to take a lead internationally on global disarmament".

Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Paul Keetch MP focussed on his party's policy on WMD, reiterating the proposals made by Menzies Campbell in the debate on the Queen's Speech. Expressing concern that "any break-out by the US from the ABM treaty would be deeply destabilising", he asked what additional steps the Government was taking to press the US on the issue. "We have a special relationship with the US and this is one instance where we should use it," he concluded.

In a speech that touched not just on WMD , but also non-military factors in global security such as access to raw materials, environmental degradation , and sub-state violence, Conservative spokesperson, Cheryl Gillan MP called for conflict prevention to "be at the top of our agenda". Like Paul Keetch, Cheryl Gillan asked for the Government to outline its "stance towards the ABM treaty". Gillan's concerns, however, were that the Government should confirm the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship, and that the Minister should report on "what evaluation he has made of the developing threats" and "what, if anything, is being done to establish the costs and the technical feasibility" of potential British and European missile defence capabilities.

Responding to the debate, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Peter Hain MP gave the Government's assessment that "in recent months, the world has become a much more dangerous place". He welcomed both the establishment of the new all-party group and the way in which Ann Cryer had "taken up the mantle [of representing CND] that her husband [the late Bob Cryer MP] pursued extremely vigorously over his years in Parliament".

In response to Harry Cohen's questions on biological weapons, Hain announced that he would visit Geneva in March, and reaffirmed that Britain wanted negotiations on the BWC Protocol to be "brought to a successful conclusion by the summer".

On the NPT, Hain, who will speak on behalf of Britain at the Review Conference, said that he agreed "with many of the non-nuclear weapon states that are also party to the treaty that want to push for faster progress towards nuclear disarmament". Citing reductions in warhead numbers, the reduced state of readiness of Britain's Trident submarines, increased transparency, and developing expertise at Aldermaston in verifying the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons, he said that the Government was "practising what they preach". British diplomats had been "active and creative in trying to persuade other nuclear-weapon states of the need for continuing progress in the right direction".

Scrutinising Ballistic Missile Defence

Question marks over Britain's stance on US NMD plans and the likely participation of the British military bases RAF Fylingdales and RAF Menwith Hill in the US project have ensured that missile defence has featured prominently in defence debates and parliamentary questions.

Britain's own threat assessment is that "there is no significant ballistic missile threat to the UK at present".5 The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) therefore concluded that it would be "premature to decide on acquiring a ballistic missile defence capability". Despite the prohibitive cost, the Ministry of Defence has clearly not ruled out the possibility that Britain, perhaps with its NATO allies, could seek to procure a missile defence capability at some time in the future. According to the annual Defence White Paper, Britain continues to monitor closely the development of ballistic missiles and continues "with a programme of work to understand the technology needed for active defence against ballistic missiles both independently and with our NATO Allies".6 The Government's policy seems to be to keep options open for any possible future procurement of missile defences.

During Defence Select Committee scrutiny of the White Paper, Mike Gapes MP (Labour) queried the Government's policy, arguing that "defending the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has considerable benefits for this country so it may not just be premature, it actually might be very dangerous to our national security" to decide on acquiring BMD. This was not a point that Secretary of State Hoon accepted, instead arguing that "we cannot simply ignore the developments which are occurring and obviously in looking at them we have to be ready to respond if necessary".7

Concerning US plans for NMD, in the Commons, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Keith Vaz MP reiterated Britain's official stance that it continues to "value the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty". Despite the potential role of British military bases in the US project, he said that it was "not for the Government to comment on the question of compliance with treaties to which it is not a party".8 In the adjournment debate on WMD, his colleague Peter Hain did, however, indicate that Britain does not support US deployment of NMD without some form of agreement with Russia. Describing the issue as "complex and difficult", he highlighted "the dangers of unilateral responses to rogue states becoming a universal risk to humankind". Britain is consulting closely with the US "on their discussions with the Russians on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty".9 Like the US, the British Government is increasingly optimistic about the prospects for a deal with the Russians on the ABM Treaty. As Baroness Scotland put it, the Government is "hopeful" that the Treaty could be amended "without difficulty".

The US Department of Defense budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 includes elements for upgrading early warning radar, presumably including that located at RAF Fylingdales, and also for military construction of "initial deployment facilities" at "worldwide unspecified locations", probably including both RAF Menwith Hill and RAF Fylingdales.

Britain granted permission to the US in 1997 to construct a Space Based Infra Red System (SBIRS)10 designed "to detect and provide information on the launch of ballistic missiles" at RAF Menwith Hill. Although the Government argues that the SBIRS is a separate project, which is "needed irrespective of any national missile defence system", it acknowledges that "it would be capable of providing early warning of ballistic missile launches to a national missile defence system should the US decide to deploy such a system".11 The SBIRS at RAF Menwith Hill is the subject of "regular discussions" between British and American officials.12

In the case of RAF Fylingdales, Secretary of State Hoon has confirmed that he has discussed with US Defense Secretary William Cohen "the possible US requirement for facilities in the UK to support the US National Missile Defence (NMD) programme".13 The Government argues, somewhat disingenuously, that questions about British involvement in US NMD are "premature at this stage", since no decision has yet been taken by the US. Although Hoon told the House of Commons that Britain had "received no formal request from the US Administration" in respect of RAF Fylingdales,14 only two days later the London Financial Times reported that an initial informal approach to the British Government had in fact been made by the US Government.15

Few details have emerged about Hoon's visit to Washington on 27 January. Newsweek reported that Hoon had raised "the possibility that Britain might ask to be covered by the defences too,"16 but in public Hoon said merely that the British Government shared the US government's assessment of the risk from rogue states. Speaking at a press conference in the Pentagon Hoon told reporters: "We believe that the U.S. is right to address this question. And obviously, the United Kingdom will want to be helpful." He also stressed the importance of having a "discussion about the implications of NMD amongst NATO allies,"17 many of which have voiced strong opposition to missile defence.

Two weeks later, Secretary of State Cook, also visiting Washington, took a similar stance. Speaking with US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, he said: "We did have a discussion on the National Missile Defense, and we both share the perception that there are new threats in the world and that there are specific and changing threats to the United States from some individual countries. In these circumstances, we understand that the United States would wish to respond to it." Cook's view on the ABM Treaty was that "we would wish to see it re-negotiated in a way in which any such development was consistent with it".18

Opposition parties are also focussing on the issue of NMD. Despite the Government line that no decision has yet been taken on NMD by President Clinton, in Defence Oral Questions, Menzies Campbell suggested that it was "clear that the United States intends to deploy some form of national missile defence, even against the reservations of its European allies and even if it means breaching the anti-ballistic missile treaty of 1972". He asked what assessment the Secretary of State had made "of the effectiveness of the British nuclear deterrent if an NMD were to come about in the United States and were the subject of a response - an increase in ballistic missiles by other countries".19

Conservative spokesperson, Iain Duncan-Smith MP, also made political capital out of the Government's "wobble over the whole position on ballistic missile defence". Accusing the Government of "sliding on the issue", Duncan-Smith drew attention to statements from Hoon's predecessor, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who had stated on the record in May 1999 that Britain was "not in favour of developing ballistic missile defence systems". Previously the Government had been "utterly opposed, but now they are not quite as opposed as they were",20 he concluded.

Questioning the Legality of Trident

Following the acquittal last October of three women in Scotland accused of damaging equipment associated with the deployment of British Trident submarines (see Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue 42), MPs have pursued new lines of questioning on the legality of Trident. In December, Tony Benn MP (Labour) asked what advice the Secretary of State for Defence had taken concerning the legality of Trident and whether nuclear targeting policy had been reviewed since the 1996 International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion. Hoon replied that "legal considerations are always taken into account in the formulation and application of defence policy".21

Although Hoon said that he was confident that British nuclear policy and posture were "entirely compatible with our obligations under international law", he said also that he had "no specific discussions on the application of international humanitarian law to the use of Trident".22 In line with previous Government practice, the Solicitor General was unwilling to disclose whether advice had been taken from the Law Officers, or what the substance of any advice might have been. He confirmed that a request for "permission for a private prosecution under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 was received last year" concerning the Government's nuclear deterrence policy, but permission was not given.23

In January, Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour) pursued the question of what effect the detonation of a Trident warhead might have on the civilian population in the vicinity of military targets. Although the MoD has carried out "comprehensive computer modelling which enables us to assess the effects of nuclear detonations", the yield of the British Trident warhead (widely believed to be 100 kilotons), continues to be withheld under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.24

Corbyn has also asked questions about training of military personnel in international law. Britain is currently preparing guidance on the law of armed conflict for its armed services. The section on nuclear weapons, which the Government argues was "reconfirmed following the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice", reads as follows:

"There is no specific rule of international law, express or implied, which prohibits the use of nuclear weapons. The legality of their use depends upon the application of the general rules of international law, including those regulating the inherent right of self-defence and the conduct of hostilities. Those rules cannot be applied in isolation from any factual context to imply a prohibition of a general nature. Whether the use, or threatened use, of nuclear weapons in a particular case is lawful depends on all the circumstances. Nuclear weapons fail to be dealt with by reference to the same general principles as apply to conventional weapons. However, the new rules introduced in Additional Protocol I [to the Geneva Conventions] are not intended to have any effect on and do not regulate or prohibit the use of nuclear weapons."25

With 185 people arrested - including Members of the Scottish and European parliaments - at the Trident submarine base at Faslane in Scotland on February 14, during a Trident Ploughshares 2000 demonstration, legal challenges to Trident through the courts are gaining political momentum, both inside and outside Westminster.B

Trouble at Sellafield

On February 18, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published three reports on safety at BNFL, Sellafield in Cumbria. The reports covered control and supervision of operations at Sellafield, storage of liquid high-level radioactive waste, and a damning indictment of the falsification of quality assurance at the mixed plutonium and uranium oxide (MOX) Demonstration Facility at Sellafield. HSE's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) found evidence of a "systematic management failure" that allowed individuals to falsify quality assurances records for MOX fuel pellets. BNFL admits shipping a consignment of MOX fuel with falsified records to Kansai Electric's Takahama 4 plant in Japan in 1999.

Responding to the NII report, Minister of State at the DTI Helen Liddell MP called for a "root and branch" review of BNFL. The company has been given two months to come up with "comprehensive and radical suggestions for change, which will deliver the management that the company needs". The report prompted criticism from Jack Cunningham MP (Labour), a long-time supporter of BNFL, whose constituency includes Sellafield. Cunningham said that he was angry that "these mindless and thoughtless actions have jeopardised not only the jobs of the people directly involved, but many, many thousands of their fellow workers in the industry".26

The Government's initial statements on the MOX scandal came in December, in response to questions from Llew Smith MP (Labour). Minister of State for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions Michael Meacher MP sought to reassure parliamentarians that despite the discovery of falsified safety records, NII had "high confidence that all of the MOX fuel which has been delivered from Sellafield to Japan will be safe in use".27 In the early stages, Liddell also attempted to play down the extent of damage to relations with Japan, saying that "no representations" had been received by the DTI from BNFL's Japanese customers.28 On January 10, however, Kansai Electric announced that it wished to return the MOX fuel assemblies to Britain.

Questions from David Chaytor MP also drew out information on an earlier problem with MOX fuel supplied by BNFL to a Swiss utility. According to Liddell: "A batch of 12 MOX fuel assemblies each containing 179 individual fuel pins supplied by BNFL were delivered to NOK's Beznau 1 reactor in November 1995. During a routine shutdown of the reactor in September 1997, it was confirmed that fuel pins in three of these assemblies had failed." As this was "a matter for the Swiss nuclear safety regulator rather than the UK's nuclear safety regulator", BNFL did not inform the NII.29

The Sellafield scandal comes at a time when the Government is considering whether to give the go-ahead to a new MOX plant at the site and is pursuing the possibility of partial privatisation of BNFL. Although Helen Liddell agreed with David Chaytor on "the need for an open debate on the issues connected with BNFL and the public-private partnership",30 the Government provides little information on possible contracts for the MOX plant on the grounds that it is "commercially confidential".

BNFL is also part of the AWE Management consortium, which has just won the contract to manage and operate Britain's Atomic Weapons Establishments (AWE). AWE Management will take charge of Britain's Aldermaston and Burghfield nuclear weapons production sites (which design, manufacture and service all British nuclear warheads) for ten years, starting on April 1, 2000.31 Questions have been raised in parliament by Crispin Blunt MP (Conservative) about the safety record of the fellow consortium member, the US company Lockheed Martin. The Ministry of Defence has insisted that any BNFL nominations to the new AWE management team must be "free of any connection with the incidents" noted by the NII. Despite this, local MP, Martin Salter (Labour) said that many of his constituents "would prefer [the cartoon character] Homer Simpson to run AWE Aldermaston, rather than BNFL".32

Looking Ahead

The 1999-2000 parliamentary session looks set to continue with a high level of scrutiny of Government policy on WMD and related issues. As the Government prepares for the NPT Review Conference, parliamentarians should be given the opportunity for a more detailed examination of British policy on the Treaty in the form of a Government debate on the subject. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry on the subject of British policy on Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (the first since its inquiry on the same topic in the run up to the 1995 NPT Review Conference) should also provide a focus for further questioning of ministers.

With a two-month deadline for BNFL to put its house in order following the latest Sellafield scandal, the nuclear industry remains under intense pressure. Despite the resignation of BNFL Chief Executive John Taylor on February 28, the problems of the nuclear industry go beyond the question simply of management. With Japan banning further imports from BNFL, the company has now alienated one of its biggest customers. The scandal will not have gone unnoticed by other current and potential customers, bringing the future viability of reprocessing and MOX at Sellafield into question. The culture of secrecy in the nuclear industry, whereby information is routinely withheld from parliamentary scrutiny on the grounds of "commercial sensitivity" or "national security" has provided an environment in which safety breaches can be easily covered up and public debate obstructed. Given the current concerns about safety and commercial viability, along with existing public opposition to BNFL on environmental and non-proliferation grounds, the Government should consider whether its current level of support and advocacy for reprocessing and MOX is in the public interest.

As the June deadline set for the US NMD deployment decision approaches, Britain's stance also requires further probing. Under a Government that prides itself on transparency in this field, parliamentarians are entitled to receive clearer answers to their questions concerning the role of British bases in NMD plans, prior to any deployment decision. Britain's position appears to have shifted in recent months to become more accommodating of US plans, particularly as it seeks to keep its own options open on BMD. Although the Government now appears optimistic that an agreement to amend the ABM Treaty can be negotiated between the US and Russia, it must also consider the impact of US NMD plans on the wider non-proliferation regime.

The establishment of an All-Party Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation will provide a key forum for discussing and raising the profile of these issues at Westminster. In the past, British parliamentary debates have tended to become divided on the issue of unilateral nuclear disarmament. These unnecessarily personalised and sectarian exchanges have often obscured meaningful cross-party debate on what to do about the problem of proliferation. As Malcolm Savidge noted in the WMD Debate, under both the current government and its Conservative predecessor, progress has come from unilateral initiatives as well as bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral negotiations. The importance of the all-party group will be in establishing a new dialogue that transcends party divides and addresses over-riding concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Notes and References

1. House of Commons, Defence Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, International Development Committee, Trade and Industry Committee, "Annual Reports for 1997 and 1998 on Strategic Export Controls: Report and Proceedings of the Committee", HC225 of 1999-2000, February 11, 2000.

2. "Speech by HM The Queen, State Opening of Parliament", House of Lords, London, November 17, 1999.

3. House of Commons, "Debate on the Address", Official Report, November 22, 1999, columns 360 - 442.

4. House of Lords, "Debate on the Address", Official Report, November 18, 1999, columns 25 - 168.

5. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, January 24, 2000, column 55W.

6. "Defence White Paper", Ministry of Defence, December 1999, Cm4446, Chapter 1, para 8.

7. House of Commons Defence Committee, Defence White Paper, Oral Evidence before the Committee, January 19, 2000, paras 786-787.

8. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, February 8, 2000, column 137W.

9. "Defence White Paper", Ministry of Defence, December 1999, Cm4446, Chapter 1, para 8.

10. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, February 8, 2000, Column 111W.

11. House of Lords, Oral Questions, Official Report, February 7, 2000, column 389.

12. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, February 7, 2000 : Column: 30W.

13. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, February 9, 2000, column 163W.

14. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, February 9, 2000, column 163W.

15. Alexander Nicoll and David Buchan, "Yorkshire: US considers site for NMD system", Financial Times, February 11, 2000.

16. "Blair's Price: Protect Britain?", Newsweek, February 7, 2000, courtesy of Richard Guthrie.

17. "Transcript: U.S., U.K. Defense Chiefs Press Briefing", USIA, January 27, 2000.

18. "Transcript: Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and The Right Honourable Robin Cook, M.P., British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs", State Department Press Transcript, February 9, 2000.

19. House of Commons, Oral Questions, Official Report, February 21, 2000, column 1224.

20. House of Commons, Oral Questions, Official Report, February 21, 2000, column 1226.

21. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, December 13, 1999, column 30W.

22. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, January 10, 2000, column: 95W.

23. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, December 13, 1999, Column 40W.

24. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, January 10, 2000, column 96W.

25. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, January 10, 2000, column: 95W.

26. BBC News UK, "Nuclear Industry 'Under Threat'", February 18, 2000, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk.

27. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, December 15, 1999, column 191W.

28. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, December 16, 1999, column 235W.

29. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, January 25, 2000, column 195W.

30. House of Commons, Oral Questions, Official Report, January 27, 2000, column 569.

31. House of Commons, Written Questions, Official Report, December 1, column 192W.

32. House of Commons, Oral Questions, Official Report, February 21, 2000, column 1223.

Editor's Footnotes

A. See Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue 42.

B. See News Review

Nicola Butler is the Acronym Institute's Senior Analyst.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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